South Sudan has arrested about 100 army officers from President Salva Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group over recent violence in the country.
“A good number of officers have been arrested — about 100 who were engaged in this — of the Dinka members within the army who targeted the Nuer community (of former vice president Riek Machar),” Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters during a visit to London on Wednesday.
“Benjamin said that all those behind the deadly violence in the country would “be held accountable,” adding, “We will equally hold accountable those who got engaged in targeting, killing, trying to use the ethnic card, definitely within the organized forces.”
A nearly two-month fighting between soldiers loyal to Kiir and coalition of army defectors and ethnic militia nominally led by Machar killed thousands of people in the world’s youngest nation.
Benjamin acknowledged that “there is a Dinka-Nuer ethnic sort of fight,” but “we don’t want these internal problems to look like what we see in our neighbors like Central Africa.”
He added that the government was “completely determined and committed” to the January 23 ceasefire.
Despite the ceasefire, deadly fighting is going on in the country, with each side accusing the other of violating the agreement.
Meanwhile, peace talks between representatives of the government and the rebel leader are underway through regional mediators in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.
A Wednesday statement from IGAD, the regional bloc which is mediating the talks, said its special envoys “have continued to consult with members of the two delegations and other stakeholders” during the first day of the talks.
The second round of peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in South Sudan was formally opened on Tuesday with an opening ceremony being held in the capital.
The first meeting between the two sides that secured the ceasefire took place last month.
South Sudan gained independence in July 2011 after its people overwhelmingly voted in a referendum for a split from the North.
The government in Juba is grappling with rampant corruption, unrest and conflict in the deeply impoverished but oil-rich nation.